Certain Personal Matters

Certain Personal Matters is an 1897 collection of essays selected by H. G. Wells from among the many short essays and ephemeral pieces he had written since 1893.[1] The book consists of thirty-nine pieces ranging from about eight hundred[2] to two thousand words[3] in length. A one-shilling reprint (two shillings in cloth) was issued in 1901 by T. Fisher Unwin.

The essays in Certain Personal Matters are written from a consistent first-person perspective, but only one (ironically, given the title) describes an identifiable event in Wells's life—how he responded to being diagnosed with tuberculosis in the fall of 1887.[4]

The other essays adopt the playful persona of an aspiring young writer living in modest circumstances with a wife, Euphemia, who is only sketchily and obliquely described. Their tone reflects the demands of the market in London magazines for "short essays, or short stories, often with a twist, which can be read in half a dozen minutes, but which will pique a reader's attention and ultimately allow him to think, 'How true. I have done that myself', or to make some similar remark."[5]

More than half of the essays are humorous social satire; serious subjects are addressed only ironically. Politics, historical and economic topics, and identifiable portraiture are eschewed. Ten essays have literary themes, and in these, too, the point of view is humorous. One ("On Schooling and the Phases of Mr. Sandsome") gently critiques the choice of subjects studied in the course of primary and secondary education. Half a dozen essays engage scientific themes, especially natural selection and evolution, and in "The Extinction of Man" Wells shows he is contemplating themes that would be expressed in his next novel, The War of the Worlds: "Even now, for all we can tell, the coming terror may be crouching for its spring and the fall of humanity may be at hand."

Certain Personal Matters
AuthorH. G. Wells
Original titleCertain Personal Matters: A Collection of Material, Mainly Autobiographical
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherWilliam Heinemann
Publication date
Preceded byThe Invisible Man 
Followed byThe War of the Worlds 

Composition and Publication

The essays in Certain Personal Matters rely on stock characters that Wells developed in his early days as a writer. This vein was inspired by his reading of When a Man's Single, an 1888 novel by J.M. Barrie, in which a character explains that saleable articles can be devised from everyday things like pipes, umbrellas, and flower pots.[6] According to biographer David C. Smith, one character is "probably based on his father (and perhaps partly on his older brothers), another based on his mother apparently (although the character is always referred to as an 'aunt', which may be somewhat symbolic), and a third character, 'Euphemia'. This last is usually thought to be a portrait of Jane [Catherine] Wells, though the figure may have some traits of Isabel [Wells's cousin and first wife] as well."[7]

"Wells naturally retained affection for the writings that had launched his career, so much so that he became embroiled in a furious dispute about the contents and title page with the publisher, who eventually had to call in Gissing to act as a mediator and persuade Wells to climb down."[8]

Certain Personal Matters was well received; one critic called it "a very pleasant moneysworth, full of wit and humour." The book sold well and was never remaindered.[9]


The essays are presented approximately chronologically rather than thematically:

  • "Thoughts on Cheapness and My Aunt Charlotte"
  • "The Trouble of Life"
  • "On the Choice of a Wife"
  • "The House of Di Sorno: A Manuscript Found in a Box"
  • "Of Conversation: An Apology"
  • "In a Literary Household"
  • "On Schooling and the Phases of Mr. Sandsome"
  • "The Poet and the Emporium"
  • "The Language of Flowers"
  • "The Literary Regimen"
  • "House-Hunting as an Outdoor Amusement"
  • "Of Blades and Bladery"
  • "Of Cleverness: Apropos of One Crichton"
  • "The Pose Novel"
  • "The Veteran Cricketer"
  • "Concerning a Certain Lady"
  • "The Shopman"
  • "The Book of Curses"
  • "Dunstone's Dear Lady"
  • "Euphemia's New Entertainment"
  • "For Freedom of Spelling: The Discovery of an Art"
  • "Incidental Thoughts on a Bald Head"
  • "Of a Book Unwritten"
  • "The Extinction of Man"
  • "The Writing of Essays"
  • "The Parkes Museum"
  • "Bleak March in Epping Forest"
  • "The Theory of Quotation"
  • "On the Art of Staying at the Seaside: A Meditation at Eastbourne"
  • "Concerning Chess"
  • "The Coal-Scuttle: A Study in Domestic Aesthetics"
  • "Bagarrow"
  • "The Book of Essays Dedicatory"
  • "Through a Microscope: Some Moral Reflections"
  • "The Pleasure of Quarreling"
  • "The Amateur Nature Lover"
  • "From an Observatory"
  • "The Mode in Monuments: Stray Thoughts in Highgate Cemetery"
  • "How I Died"

External links


  1. ^ David C. Smith, H.G. Wells: Desperately Mortal: A Biography (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986), pp. 35-37. "Most of Wells's ephemeral pieces have not been collected, and many have not even been identified as his. Wells did not automatically receive the byline his reputation demanded until after 1896 or so. Some journals had a policy of giving only one byline an issue, no matter how many pieces an author contributed to it. Wells also occasionally used pseudonyms, although these are ordinarily very easy to spot. His style became increasingly recognizable, and eventually he collected a number of these magazine pieces in two early volumes [Select Conversations with an Uncle and Certain Personal Matters] . . . As a result, many of his early pieces are known. Some knowledge also comes from a list compiled by Jane Wells [i.e. Catherine Robbins Wells, Wells's second wife] in the First World War period. But it obvious that many early Wells items have been lost. . . . Of course, Wells himself may have been unwilling to have some of his early published work reprinted, although the correspondence does not suggest that he was ashamed of much that he wrote" (p. 35).
  2. ^ "How I Died," the last piece in the collection, written in 1897.
  3. ^ "Of a Book Unwritten," a speculation about the future evolution of Homo sapiens.
  4. ^ "How I Died," the volume's concluding piece. The diagnosis of a fatal illness, which came about a month after Wells incurred a serious internal injury while playing rugby on Aug. 30, 1887, proved to be mistaken. Wells describes three phases of his reaction. "My first phase was an immense sorrow for myself. . . . Then presently the sorrow broadened . . . I thought more of the world's loss, and less of my own. . . . This lasted . . . nearly four months," until one day on a springtime walk "I quite forgot I was a Doomed Man. . . . For a moment I tried in vain to think what it was had slipped my memory. Then it came, colourless and remote. 'Oh! Death.... He's a Bore,' I said; 'I've done with him,' and laughed to think of having done with him. 'And why not so?' said I." (These are the concluding words of Certain Personal Matters.)
  5. ^ David C. Smith, H.G. Wells: Desperately Mortal: A Biography (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986), p. 35.
  6. ^ Norman and Jeanne MacKenzie, H.G. Wells: A Biography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973), p. 95.
  7. ^ David C. Smith, H.G. Wells: Desperately Mortal: A Biography (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986), p. 35.
  8. ^ Michael Sherborne, H.G. Wells: Another Kind of Life (Peter Owens, 2010), p. 125.
  9. ^ David C. Smith, H.G. Wells: Desperately Mortal: A Biography (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986), p. 37.
Anthony West (author)

Anthony West (4 August 1914 – 27 December 1987) was a British author and literary critic.

Dear Jessie

"Dear Jessie" is a song by American singer Madonna from her fourth studio album Like a Prayer (1989). It was released as the fifth single from the album on December 10, 1989 by Sire Records. Written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, the song was inspired by Leonard's daughter Jessie. The release of "Dear Jessie" was limited to the United Kingdom, certain other European countries, Australia and Japan. The track is composed more like a children's lullaby rather than a pop song, and features strings, synthesizer and strummed acoustics. A change in tempo occurs during the breakdown, where instrumentation from trumpets is included. Lyrically, the song evokes a psychedelic fantasy landscape, in which pink elephants roam with dancing moons and mermaids.

Upon its release, "Dear Jessie" received mixed reviews from critics, who felt that about the fantasy imagery of the song was overdone, but complimented its composition. Other reviewers likened the song to the music of The Beatles. The track was a moderate success commercially, reaching the top 10 in the United Kingdom and Ireland and the top 20 in Germany, Spain and Switzerland. The music video of "Dear Jessie" combines live action and animation, portraying a little girl waking up in bed and interacting with fantasy characters. Madonna appears in the video only as an animated, Tinker Bell-type fairy.

G. P. Wells

George Philip Wells FRS (17 July 1901 – 27 September 1985), son of the British science fiction author H. G. Wells, was a zoologist and author. He co-authored, with his father and Julian Huxley, The Science of Life. A pupil at Oundle School, he was in the first class to learn Russian as a modern language in a British school. He accompanied his father to Soviet Russia in 1920, acting as his Russian translator and exchanging ideas with Russian zoology students. He won an entrance Exhibition to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became Senior Scholar in his first year of residence.Wells, a comparative physiologist, worked on invertebrates of several phyla. He determined their tolerance for changes in the salinity and the ionic balance of the surrounding water, and analysed the water relations of land gastropods.

For the latter part of his career he was a member of staff in the Zoology Department of University College London, eventually as professor. His range of zoological knowledge was notably wide, and his main research was on the behaviour of the lugworm Arenicola. He determined its habits by elegant experiments, and showed that the rhythm which controls many of its activities arises in the oesophagus. Such spontaneous rhythmic activity was shown to occur in many polychaetes.

He was known to all by his nickname, Gip, and appears by this name in his father's fictional story "The Magic Shop". He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1955.Wells also published the 1971 (and last) edition of his father's The Outline of History in the wake of Raymond Postgate's death in March of that year. Postgate had revised four previous editions following H. G. Wells' death in 1946, published in 1949, 1956, 1961 and 1969. He also edited and published H. G. Wells in Love, his father's account of his main extramarital love affairs.

H. G. Wells

Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was an English writer. He was prolific in many genres, writing dozens of novels, short stories, and works of social commentary, satire, biography, and autobiography, and even including two books on recreational war games. He is now best remembered for his science fiction novels and is often called a "father of science fiction", along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback.During his own lifetime, however, he was most prominent as a forward-looking, even prophetic social critic who devoted his literary talents to the development of a progressive vision on a global scale. A futurist, he wrote a number of utopian works and foresaw the advent of aircraft, tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellite television and something resembling the World Wide Web. His science fiction imagined time travel, alien invasion, invisibility, and biological engineering. Brian Aldiss referred to Wells as the "Shakespeare of science fiction". His most notable science fiction works include The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898) and the military science fiction The War in the Air (1907). Wells was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times.Wells's earliest specialised training was in biology, and his thinking on ethical matters took place in a specifically and fundamentally Darwinian context. He was also from an early date an outspoken socialist, often (but not always, as at the beginning of the First World War) sympathising with pacifist views. His later works became increasingly political and didactic, and he wrote little science fiction, while he sometimes indicated on official documents that his profession was that of journalist. Novels such as Kipps and The History of Mr Polly, which describe lower-middle-class life, led to the suggestion that he was a worthy successor to Charles Dickens, but Wells described a range of social strata and even attempted, in Tono-Bungay (1909), a diagnosis of English society as a whole. A diabetic, Wells co-founded the charity The Diabetic Association (known today as Diabetes UK) in 1934.

H. G. Wells (crater)

H. G. Wells is a lunar impact crater that is located on the far side of the Moon, behind the northeastern limb. It lies to the south of the crater Millikan, and to the northeast of Cantor. Just to the southeast is the smaller Tesla.

This large formation is most notable for the extremely battered state of its outer rim. Little or nothing remains of the original rim, so completely has it been eroded and incised by smaller craters. As a result, the crater floor is now surrounded by a ring of irregular peaks and worn crater valleys. This rugged surroundings intrudes only part way into the interior, while the remaining floor is relatively level and in some places gently rolling. The interior is marked only by a multitude of tiny craterlets.

The writer H. G. Wells earned the right to have a Moon crater named after him by his well-known science fiction, including the novel The First Men in the Moon.

H. G. Wells bibliography

H. G. Wells was a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction. His writing career spanned more than sixty years, and his early science fiction novels earned him the title (along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback) of "The Father of Science Fiction".

In the Abyss

"In the Abyss" is a short story by English writer H. G. Wells, first published in 1896 in Pearson's Magazine. It was included in The Plattner Story and Others, a collection of short stories by Wells first published in 1897. The story describes a journey to the ocean bed in a specially-designed metal sphere; the explorer within discovers a civilization of human-like creatures.

Joseph Wells (cricketer)

Joseph Wells (14 July 1828 – 14 October 1910) was an English cricketer and father of the noted author H. G. Wells.

Keep It Together (song)

"Keep It Together" is a song by American singer Madonna from her fourth studio album Like a Prayer (1989). It was released on January 30, 1990 by Sire Records as the sixth and final single from the album in the United States, Canada and Japan. Written and produced by Madonna and Stephen Bray, the main inspiration behind "Keep It Together" was Madonna's relationship with her family—whom she dearly missed after her divorce from actor Sean Penn. The song was dedicated to American funk and soul band Sly and the Family Stone. The lyrics deal with the realization of how important Madonna's family has been to her life. A pop and funk song consisting of an upbeat rhythm and groove, "Keep It Together" features instrumentation from percussion, banjo and a conga.

In the United Kingdom and some other countries, "Dear Jessie" (1989) served as the final single from the album and "Keep It Together" was not released there. Some critics compared "Keep It Together" to the work of Sister Sledge, especially their song "We Are Family". The song was a commercial success, reaching a peak of number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 and Canadian charts, while topping the dance chart in the United States. In Australia it reached the top of the charts as a double A-side single with "Vogue". "Keep It Together" has been performed as the closing song of the 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour. The performances were inspired by the 1971 science fiction film, A Clockwork Orange, and during the introduction, Madonna sang a verse from "Family Affair" by Sly and the Family Stone.

Like a Prayer (song)

"Like a Prayer" is a song recorded by American singer Madonna for her fourth studio album of the same name. Sire Records released it as the album's lead single on March 3, 1989. Written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, the track heralded an artistic and personal approach to songwriting for Madonna, who believed that she needed to cater more to her adult audience. Thematically the song speaks about a passionate young girl in love with God, who becomes the only male figure in her life.

"Like a Prayer" is a pop rock song and incorporates Gospel music. It features background vocals from a choir and also a rock guitar. The lyrics contain liturgical words, but they have dual meanings of sexual innuendo and religion. "Like a Prayer" was acclaimed by critics, and was also a commercial success. It was Madonna's seventh number-one single on the United States' Billboard Hot 100, and topped the singles charts in many other countries, including Australia, Canada, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Rolling Stone listed "Like a Prayer" among The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The music video, directed by Mary Lambert, portrays Madonna as a witness to the murder of a girl by white supremacists. While a black man is arrested for the murder, Madonna hides in a church for safety seeking strength to go forth as a witness. The clip depicts a church and Catholic symbols such as stigmata. It also features a Ku Klux Klan-style cross burning, and a dream about kissing a black saint. The Vatican condemned the video, while family and religious groups protested against its broadcast. They boycotted products by soft drink manufacturer Pepsi, who had used the song in their commercial. The company canceled their sponsorship contract with Madonna, but allowed her to retain the fee.

"Like a Prayer" has been featured on five of Madonna's concert tours, most recently on the Rebel Heart Tour in 2015–2016. It has been covered by numerous artists. The song is noted for the mayhem surrounding the music video, and the various interpretations of its content, leading to discussions among music and film scholars. Along with the parent album, the track has been considered a turning point in Madonna's career, with critics starting to acknowledge her as an artist rather than a mere pop star.

List of amateur chess players

This is a list of skilled but non-professional chess players who were famous for some other reason, but whose life or work was significantly impacted by the game of chess.

Oh Father

"Oh Father" is a song recorded by American singer Madonna for her fourth studio album Like a Prayer (1989). It was released as the fourth single from the album on October 24, 1989 by Sire Records. The song was not released as a single in most European territories until December 24, 1995, when it appeared on the 1995 ballads compilation Something to Remember. Written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, the nexus of "Oh Father" was the presence of male authoritative figures in Madonna's life, most prominently her father, Tony Ciccone. Madonna's relationship with her father had soured, after her mother's death in 1963 and his remarriage two years later. While developing the Like a Prayer album, Madonna was in an emotional state of mind due to her personal problems, which is reflected in "Oh Father".

Musically, "Oh Father" is a baroque pop ballad. It was recorded at a studio in the Garment District of New York City. Leonard put together different types of chord progression and created the basic outline of a melody, which Madonna shaped and then wrote lyrics to fit the melody. She used a contrast of timbre while singing the song, which also featured instrumentation from strings, piano, violin and drum machine. "Oh Father" received positive reviews from critics and authors, but commercially was less successful than Madonna's previous singles. In most of the countries where it was released, the song failed to attain top-ten positions, except in Finland and Italy, where it peaked at number six. It ended Madonna's string of 16 consecutive top five singles in the United States.

The music video of the song was Madonna's attempt to embrace and accept her mother's death. Directed by David Fincher and shot in black-and-white, it shows a little girl playing in the snow, as her mother dies. A grown-up Madonna follows the child and sings the song, as the child runs away from her abusive father. Described by reviewers as "autobiographical", the video was listed by Rolling Stone as one of "The 100 Top Music Videos". Scholars noted how Madonna's persona was split into the child and adult in the video, and one writer described a scene involving the dead mother shown in her wake, with her lips sewn shut, as one of the most disturbing scenes in the history of mainstream music videos—the scene was inspired by Madonna's memory of her mother from her funeral. "Oh Father" was performed only on the Blond Ambition World Tour in 1990, where Madonna portrayed a woman trying to find her religion and her battle for it.

The Argonauts of the Air

"The Argonauts of the Air" is a short story by H. G. Wells, first published in 1895 in Phil May's Annual. It was included in the collection of Wells short stories The Plattner Story and Others, published by Methuen & Co. in 1897.Written several years before the first flight of the Wright brothers, it describes the painstaking development of a flying machine, in the face of public amusement, and its unsuccessful trial flight over London.

Wells lived at one time in Worcester Park, where the machine is launched; he studied at the Royal College of Science, where it crashes.

The Cone

"The Cone" is a short story by H. G. Wells, first published in 1895 in Unicorn. It was intended to be "the opening chapter of a sensational novel set in the Five Towns", later abandoned.The story is set at an ironworks in Stoke-on-Trent, in Staffordshire. An artist is there to depict the industrial landscape; the manager of the ironworks discovers his affair with his wife, and takes him on a tour of the factory, where there are dangerous features.

The Diamond Maker

"The Diamond Maker" is a short story by H. G. Wells, first published in 1894 in the Pall Mall Budget. It was included in The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents, the first collection of short stories by Wells, first published in 1895.

In the story, a businessman hears an account from a man who has devoted years attempting to make artificial diamonds, only to end as a desperate outcast.

The Plattner Story

"The Plattner Story" is a short story by English writer H. G. Wells, first published in 1896 in The New Review. It was included in The Plattner Story and Others, a collection of short stories by Wells first published in 1897, and in The Country of the Blind and Other Stories, a collection of his short stories first published in 1911. In the story, a man recounts his experiences in a parallel world.

The Sea Raiders

"The Sea Raiders" is a short story by H. G. Wells, first published in 1896 in The Weekly Sun Literary Supplement. It was included in The Plattner Story and Others, a collection of short stories by Wells published by Methuen & Co. in 1897. It was included in The Country of the Blind and Other Stories, a collection of short stories by Wells published by Thomas Nelson & Sons in 1911.The story describes a brief period when a previously unknown sort of giant squid, which attacks humans, is encountered on the coast of Devon, England.

Æpyornis Island

"Æpyornis Island", or "Aepyornis Island", is a short story by H. G. Wells, first published in 1894 in the Pall Mall Budget. It was included in The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents, the first collection of short stories by Wells, first published in 1895.

In the story, a man looking for eggs of Aepyornis, an extinct flightless bird, passes two years alone on a small island with an Aepyornis that has hatched.

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